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Joan Baez Calls Bob Dylan Romance "Totally Demoralizing" in New Doc

The two were musical and romantic partners before a painful breakup.

They're two of the most celebrated and influential folk singers of all time, and for part of the '60s, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were also a couple. The pair started out as musical collaborators and often performed alongside each other. Then, they developed a romance that inspired one of Baez's best known songs and that she now calls "totally demoralizing."

The new documentary Joan Baez I Am a Noise, out Oct. 6, looks back at the now-82-year-old singer-songwriter's life. In the film and other recent interview, she's opened up about her relationship with Dylan, why their split caused her so much pain, and how she came to forgive read. Read on for more.

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Baez and Dylan met in the early '60s.

Baez and Dylan first crossed paths when she saw him perform in the early '60s. She had already released albums, while Dylan was just starting out.

"We changed each other's lives and outlooks and music and careers," Baez says of Dylan in Joan Baez I Am a Noise. "I had gone to see him at Gerde's Folk City in New York city, and I saw this tattered little shamble of a human being up there spouting out these words and I was just transfixed."

They began performing together and embarked on a romantic relationship, as well. "I remember very clearly driving him around when I was driving to my own concerts, and I'd introduce him on the stage and the audience would go, 'Ew,' and I'd say, 'Listen to this guy.' It didn't take them very long to listen to this guy."

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He broke her heart.

Dylan and Baez's split affected her deeply. According to the Toronto Star, the couple broke up in 1965 after he didn't allow her to perform with him on stage during a tour in the UK.

Dylan is featured in the 2009 documentary Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound, giving a rare comment about their relationship. "I was just trying to deal with the madness which had become my career and unfortunately she got swept along and I felt very bad about it," he said (via Heavy). "I was sorry to see that relationship end."

In that documentary, Baez said, "I was crazy about him. We were an item and we were having a wonderful time." She also said that she might have pushed Dylan away by trying to get him involved in all of the social activism she participated in. "I was trying to shove him into a mold," she said.

In a recent interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Baez said of Dylan, "It was probably the deepest I've ever felt for somebody … I think when somebody walks away from you, you feel a lot more when they walk away from you. And I got walked away from in a big way and it was hard to get over."

She called the relationship "totally demoralizing."

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performing at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival
Gai Terrell/Redferns via Getty Images

In I Am a Noise, Baez says of Dylan (via People), "We were in our early 20s. We were stupid, and you can't blame somebody forever. I certainly tried but finally stopped." She also said that the relationship was "totally demoralizing."

But she also explains how she found "total forgiveness" for Dylan in an artistic way—by painting a portrait of him.

"I put his music on, and I just dissolved into tears. When I was through with the painting, I had no animosity left. None. It's remained that way," she says in the film.

Baez also channeled her feelings for Dylan into her music. Her 1975 song "Diamonds & Rust" is about a phone call he made to her long after they'd broken up, as she confirmed to HuffPost in 2010. The lyrics include, "Well, I'll be damned/Here comes your ghost again" and "Well, you burst on the scene/Already a legend/The unwashed phenomenon."

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They no longer speak.

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan at Philharmonic Hall, New York City in 1964
John Byrne Cooke Estate/Getty Images

Dylan and Baez remained in touch following their split, and even continued performing together occasionally. The last time they shared a stage was during a European tour in 1984 that also featured Carlos Santana. As reported by Rolling Stone, Baez wrote in her 1987 book, And a Voice to Sing With, that she had been promised equal billing by the tour promoter and felt disrespected when this turned out not to be the case. Dylan also reportedly stopped inviting her to sing with him during his portions of the shows, and so she quit the tour.

Now, the two artists no longer speak. In a February interview, The Hollywood Reporter asked Baez about Dylan declining to attend the awards ceremony when he received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"[I]t was so typical that he didn't want to go and accept it," Baez said. "And everybody gets so insulted and everybody's surprised. And they shouldn't be surprised anymore. He'll go off and do a Chevrolet ad, what the [expletive]? So don't be surprised [by Dylan] anymore. Just enjoy it."

Asked if they still are in touch, she responded, "Um, no."

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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